The 10th annual Stand Up for Heroes event in New York City Tuesday featured the show’s most star-packed lineup to date and jokes about everything from Donald Trump to parenthood. Louis C.K., Jerry Seinfeld, Jon Stewart, and Jim Gaffigan were all billed in the weeks leading up to the benefit, and each took their own hilarious turns at the mic. Perennial musical guest Bruce Springsteen also performed.
From Springsteen auctioning off a dish of his mother’s lasagna to Stewart recalling his first Twitter fight with Trump, there were tons of big moments inside Madison Square Garden’s theater. Read on for highlights of the event, which was sponsored by the Bob Woodruff Foundation and the New York Comedy Festival in support of veterans injured during service.
1. Jon Stewart predicted the end of American democracy
After Phillip Phillips sang the National Anthem and Woodruff and his wife introduced their cause and mission, Stewart hilariously kicked off the rounds of celebrity stand-up performances. “To be here tonight with you guys, my heroes, on the eve of the last American election is so exciting,” he began. “240 years…we gave it a shot.” He devoted several minutes to each candidate, lambasting Trump for thinking an election is rigged when he lives in a tower with his name on the front, in gold — “How good would it be going for you if the man wasn’t holding you down?” he wondered to raucous laughs and applause — and lamenting that Hillary Clinton, the potential first female president of the United States, could be taken down “by a Bush and a Weiner.” Perhaps it’s because late night television so desperately misses Stewart this year, but in a time of profound election exhaustion, the 53-year-old comedian managed to break through.
2. Stewart recalled his first Twitter beef with Donald Trump
The story has been told before — but Stewart was absolutely thrilled to tell it again. “You might be asking yourself,” he introduced the tale, “‘Jon, have you had any experiences with either candidate that might be relevant?’ And I’m glad you brought that up.” In May 2013, Trump began tweeting about Stewart. He called him “overrated” a few times, Stewart recalled, before becoming attached to Stewart’s name. “If Jon Stewart is so above it all & legit, why did he change his name from Jonathan Leibowitz? He should be proud of his heritage!” Trump wrote. Days later, he added: “Jon Stewart is a total phony — he should cherish his past — not run from it. As I’ve said many times before, Jon Stewart is highly overrated.” Stewart quipped, “This is when I realized he was trying to point out that I was a Jew. I always thought my face did that.” Things escalated between the two men, as Stewart explains in a fan’s clip below. “Vote wisely this November 8th,” Stewart told the audience.
3. C.K. remained the most hilarious dad
C.K.’s children were the inspiration for his most hilarious fare, and it went over perfectly with Tuesday’s crowd. That’s mainly because between side-splitting stories about the headaches of being a single father, he allowed endearing moments that let you know how much he actually loves the responsibility. Recalling the day his eldest was born, he said that his daughter came out wailing. The doctors had her on the side table, washing her off, while his wife, who had a C-section, was being sewed up. “The kid is screaming,” he remembered, “and my wife is worthless, so I get close and say, ‘It’s okay.’ And immediately, she stopped screaming. And I thought, ‘Oh shit, I am of use.’ I had never felt like that in my entire life.” [Cue swoons in the audience.]
4. Jerry Seinfeld performed, in general
Getting into a Jerry Seinfeld show in New York City requires a willing forfeit of almost all of your assets, so it was nice to see that not as much money was required to get into the benefit and it was all for a good cause. As has been the case for decades, Seinfeld’s brilliance lies in his ability to talk about, well, absolutely nothing. He joked about how much life sucks — “Your life sucks. Mine does too, maybe a bit less.” — the pointlessness of going out, and the idiocy of 5-Hour Energy drinks. “Five hours is a weird time,” he said. “Who works 1-6?” He also reminded the audience of things they stopped noticing about life years ago, and then showed how hilarious each tiny facet is. No one does it better, and it never stops working.
5. Veterans introduced the performers
The cause was never far from audience members’ minds Tuesday night. Each performer was introduced by a veteran with a spectacular tale of endurance. Corp. Aaron Minchin introduced C.K., Capt. Derek Herrera of the Marine Corps introduced Seinfeld, and extremely emotional video of the Air Force’s Israel Del Toro and his son, Israel Jr., played before the auction. It was a wonderful and — judging by the $1.4 million dollars raised — extremely effective aspect of the evening.
6. The $$$
Money was very easy to come by Tuesday night in MSG. The auctioneer took the stage before Springsteen and promised that if people were motivated, we’d all get to the music a little quicker. It worked. In under two minutes, she had $300,000 promised. And it didn’t take long to get to almost $800,000. Later, after the Boss performed, his gold Fender Telecaster guitar started off at $80,000. That wasn’t not nearly enough, so Springsteen kept sweetening the deal: He added a ride for four in his vintage Cadillac. Then, with the bid resting at $120,000, he said that he’ll take that foursome for a two-hour ride to the Jersey Freeze and buy them as many hot dogs and hamburgers as that they want. We learned the name of the man in the front who was matching people’s bids a moment ago: Dan. The crowd started chanting, “Dan! Dan!” to get him to $200,000. Springsteen threw in an offer of his mom’s lasagna dinner, literally, and Dan was pushed to $280,000. Later, Stewart, Gaffigan, C.K., and Seinfeld attempted a similar feat while the event was auctioning off a Harley-Davidson. They promised a dinner with the four of them to the winner, and that each of them would put $50,000 in the pot. The crowd member got to $150,000 and they added $200,000. In all, in a remarkably short time, the night’s haul soared to $1.1 million inspiring dollars.
7. The Boss
Springsteen has performed at evert annual Stand Up for Heroes event in its 10-year history. He brought four songs to the stage this year: “Working on the Highway,” “I’ll Work for Your Love,” “Long Walk Home,” and “Dancing in the Dark.” In between each, he’d tell jokes. (For example, the first is a story of an 80-year-old couple. “They’re in an alley, up against the fence, and they’re screwing the hell out of each other,” he said. After falling in exhaustion, Springsteen explained, the woman says to her husband, “You didn’t screw me like that 50 years ago.” The punchline: “50 years ago that fence wasn’t electrified.”) And while the Boss wrecks crowds every night, playing his longest set ever just to follow it up with an even longer set, this was a new kind of devastation: acoustic, understated, and emotional.